Zum Liederabend am 21. September 1968 in Paris

Herald Tribune, 26. September 1968  

German Baritone Opens Paris Season

Voice in a Million is Fischer-Dieskau

Paris. - Paris’s fall music season is getting off to a sluggish start, with only two recitals scheduled in September and nothing very startling for October. Can it be that the threatened recurrence of the spring’s general upheaval is keeping the big musicians away and making autumn’s offerings so lean?

Taking no chances on an October revolution, the German baritone Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, whose spring appearance was canceled not because of les événements but because of cracked ribs suffered in an automobile accident, set his fall-winter recital for last Saturday.

He was in splendid form. He always is. One wonders how any artist, especially a singer who is supposed to live in perennial terror of head-colds, sore throats and drafts, can ever be in top form. whether singing opera or recital, German or Italian, outdoors or indoors, summer or winter. None of the elements (with the exception of cracked ribs, of course!) seem to faze t h i s singer of singers, this voice in a million.

His interesting program was built around the poems of Goethe as set to music by various composers. In his own program notes on the subject, Mr. Fischer-Dieskau points out that Goethe was a would-be composer who loved music and surrounded himself with musicians and that he considers Goethe the "hyphen," as it were, between poetry and music.

There were inevitably the songs of Schubert and Wolf; but selections also included those of Duchess Anna-Amalia, the first person to set Goethe’s words to music; Johann Friedrich Reichardt, Kapellmeister to Frederick the Great; Carl Friedrich Zelter, friend of Goethe and contemporary of Beethoven; Ferruccio Busoni, the formidable pianist-pedagogue; Max Reger, turn-of-the-century romantic, and Othmar Schoeck, the Swiss composer, who died in 1957.

Of the whole beautifully chosen lot, we enjoyed particularly the opening "Auf dem Land" of Duchess Anna-Amalia and Zelter’s "Gleich und Gleich," whose delicate trills and runs, respectively, were manipulated by Mr. Fischer-Dieskau with the ease of a coloratura. Schubert’s "Erlkönig," where the dialogue between father, infant son and elf king was supremely interpreted in distinctly different vocal timbres and attitudes.

Norman Shetler, an American pianist who has been accompanying Nathan Milstein and other notables in Europe for the last couple of years, was absolutely one with Mr. Fischer-Dieskau, never anticipating, never trailing. In moments in the Busoni "Zigeunerlied" and two of the Wolf songs, one felt the need of more florid or brilliant coloring. But this was probably not the fault of Mr. Shetler so much as of the piano, which was a Bösendorfer and which, by the same token, most of the time framed to perfection in its hushed, tender hues, the singer’s own very special timbre.

Priscilla Witter

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